Enzo Ferrari, the founder of Ferrari, had a dream. He wanted to engineer the perfect car, and anyone can tell you that Ferrari has come pretty darn close to achieving that goal. But just 48 years after he created Ferrari, he began to have even bigger aspirations for his prestigious little company. He wanted to engineer the perfect driver to go along with his perfect car. To put it in his words, he decided that “Ferrari can build drivers as well as cars.”
And so came the flood of talented and special Formula One drivers. Men like Gilles Villeneuve (AKA Il piccolo Canadese – the little Canadian), Fernardo Alonso, and the god of all F1 drivers, Michael Schumacher, conquered the track, representing Ferrari in races around the world. Ferrari’s dream really came to life, however, in June of 2010, when he rigorously began scouting out promising drivers. That was when Ferrari scouted out Lance Stroll, of Montreal, Quebec.
So what’s the big difference, you might be wondering. Why is Stroll so different from any old F1 driver?
Well, there’s always the fact that he was signed at the ripe old age of 11.
Yup. A boy, so young that most parents wouldn’t even allow him to sit in the front seat, let alone drive the car, is now attending the Ferrari Driver Academy, making him the youngest F1 driver ever. Ferrari has decided to take it ‘slow’ with him – he isn’t driving actual race cars, just super jacked up karts that can hit over 130 km/h. He won’t be able to drive a real race car until he is at least 15. (Still too young to have a drivers license in Ontario, mightn’t I add.) There he trains with a couple other handpicked young boys whom Ferrari has scouted out, immersed in the glorious world of auto racing. Stroll and his peers spend their days training with specialized experts who work with them, doing exercises that may seem useless, but are actually vital for success on the track.
Now 13 years old, Stroll may spend his day in the gym, balancing on an exercise ball and imagining himself driving through a course, having to stay absolutely still the entire time. He may be in the Mind Room, learning how to keep a cool head while driving at 130 km/h. Or he may be visiting a nutritionist, attending a class on racing strategy, or working on his peripheral vision while a machine tracks his breathing patterns, blood pressure, and brain activity.
Many people think that all you need to be a successful F1 driver is a lead foot and good steering. They are wrong. Consider this: one wrong move, and your car has the potential to blow up in a ball of fire, with you in it. And then, of course, there is always the G force, reaching up to five times the force of gravity. That is enough force to temporarily stop a person’s breathing and make their head feel like it weighs 50 pounds. The heat from the motor, often straining to reach over 350 km/h, can cause the driver to lose up to three liters of fluid, and can cause their blood pressure to double. You need lots of talent, killer reflexes, intense core strength, and the ability to stay calm and focused under huge amounts of pressure and extreme conditions.
Consider that a 13 year old is being groomed to control one of these awesome machines, and that at 15 he will be participating competitively in one of the most dangerous jobs in pro sports. And consider that it is a Canadian who will be representing one of the most esteemed car companies in the world. Not too shabby Canada, not too shabby.